Should you let your knees go past your ankles? What about if you have an injured knee?
I posted this tweet on my Instagram a few weeks ago, and boy did I hear a lot of opinions on the matter
A lot of people were upset by this because their doctors have told them not to let this happen because of their knee injuries, so I’m going to cut this off at the pass before diving deeper into this subject, and say this tweet was NOT about you if you have knee injuries. This was a post meant for people with healthy knees, who have heard this cue in yoga because it is a very common cue for yoga teachers, which in my opinion creates a fear around this action that is just unnecessary because it’s totally safe to let your knees go past your ankles.
SO now that that’s out of the way – I want to talk about this for both healthy knees and knees with pain.
Again, if your doctor has told you to avoid letting your knees go past your ankles, then listen to your doctor. I am in no way suggesting your doctor is wrong.
That being said, it’s not fair to generalize and say that everyone with knee injuries needs to avoid this movement. That’s not taking into consideration that everyone has their own individual and unique experience. What is safe for one person may be unsafe for another, and vice versa. So I personally wouldn’t even assume that this is an unsafe position for your knee even if you have knee injuries – UNLESS YOUR DOCTOR HAS SAID SO.
Let me give you an example. We’re gonna dive deep into skiing for a second, so just stick with me because I promise I’ll bring it back to you and your knees and body.
So here’s the deal. I actually have knee issues but only on my left side and only when I ski. My knee KILLS me when I ski. I’ve been skiing for 29 years, and in the last 5-10 it’s gotten so bad that I sometimes can’t walk directly afterwards. This is pretty much the only time it bothers me. And I will tell you why and how I have recently fixed it:
Skiing is basically just an elongated chair pose hold, and in chair pose your knees have to go forwards of your ankles. This movement doesn’t come from the knee – it comes from your ankle’s flexibility. And my ankle mobility sucks. So my knees don’t go forwards of my ankles very much, and because they’re SUPPOSED to do this when you ski, my body has to figure out a different place to find that movement. If you’re not a skiier, here’s a picture of what your body is supposed to look like:
When you turn, not only are your knees supposed to go even more past your ankles, but your foot/ankles have to move a bit in the boot to bring you into the turn. But like I said before, my ankle mobility is not good, so when I turn I can’t really do this from my ankles and feet, which is where my body is supposed to be finding the movement. So instead, my body has to find that movement from somewhere else. It compensates somewhere else because of the lack of movement in my ankle.
So where does my body pull the movement from? MY KNEE. Which is why it hurts when I ski.
SO – This is all to say, if my ankle mobility was better, then my knee would be able to go past my ankle and I would have the range of motion I needed to turn from my feet and ankles, and my knee wouldn’t be twisting a bit as I turn. How did I fix this recently? I put heel lifts in my shoes. Heel lifts will create more range of motion in your ankles and allow your knees to go forwards of your ankles more.
Heel lift for me = Increased ankle mobility = Decrease pain in my knee
This is a perfect example of how every single person’s body’s are different and we shouldn’t ever generalize anything.
Ok now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into this tweet and how this relates to YOU and yoga.
Do you struggle to get your heels down in a squat? If so, chances are it’s because of your ankle mobility – NOT your hip flexibility. So how do you fix this? Just like I did with skiing – LIFT YOUR HEELS! You can grab a blanket or towel and slide it under your heels to whatever height you need for your body to be able to sit down into a squat. Give it a try I promise it will help!
Your body was designed to let your knees go past your ankles. When you were born, this was something that was supposed to happen in your body.
Unfortunately as we age, we develop certain movement patterns that may restrict this movement and we lose our ability to let our knees go forwards of our ankles. We sit a lot in the west, and use it or lose it is very real, and this is part of why we’ve, in general, lost this ability to let our knees go forwards of our ankles.
Think about children. They are usually so so flexible right? They just pop right into a squat. We were all born with this ability, but as we live our lives we fall, we get injured, we move, we develop movement habits that are specific to what we do in our lives.
Some of us maintain this flexibility in our hips and ankles because it’s been incorporated into our lives in some way as we grew older, but for a lot of people we lose it. This is why it disappears from our lives – not because we SHOULDN’T be doing it, but because we AREN’T doing it. And then things that require this movement start to get tougher. For example, in order to climb stairs, your knee needs to go forwards of your ankles to help you get up.
Here’s a video of me letting my knees go past my ankles to climb stairs, and then trying to not let them go forwards. I almost fell backwards trying to keep them from going forwards.
So to answer the question posed in the title of this blog post:
Should you let your knees go past your ankles?
Yes – absolutely you should. If you have that ability and you don’t have pain then 100% you should be letting that happen.
Should you let your knees go past your ankles if you have a knee injury?
It depends. There is no right or wrong answer here because everyone’s pain and injuries are unique to them and their bodies and how they move and why they’re in pain.
I’m expecting some intense responses here, so drop me those comments and let me know what you think. And if you want to understand your body further and movements unique and specific to YOU, make sure you sign up for my FREE 30 minute one-on-one zoom session. It’s free for your first time working with me in a private session. I’ve dropped the link below to sign up for your time slot. Can’t wait to work with you and get you moving in a safe and individualized way
Till next time,